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Ramaphosa surprises with further easing of Covid-19 restrictions

But warns of ‘super-spreader events’ and infection spikes in the Eastern Cape and other areas.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered some welcome news in his latest ‘national family meeting’. Image: Elmond Jiyane, GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in a surprise move during his latest address to the nation on the Covid-19 pandemic on Wednesday night, has announced that retail sales of alcohol will be allowed on weekends and that international travel to South Africa will be eased further.

Read the president’s full speech and watch the archived livestream here.

The move represents a further “opening up” of the country’s battered economy and will no doubt be hailed by the tourism, hospitality and grocery retail industries, which have voiced increasing unhappiness with the restrictions.

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Read: Tourism bodies say ‘red list’ must be scrapped

No date for the changes (still under lockdown alert Level 1) were mentioned by the president, but further details are likely to be revealed later this week by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

“As we transition to a new phase in our response, the only way forward is a rapid and sustained economic recovery,” said Ramaphosa.

“We are therefore working to enable all parts of the economy to return to full operation as quickly and as safely as possible.

“We are amending the alert Level 1 regulations to restore the normal trading hours for the sale of alcohol at retail outlets. We are also opening up international travel to all countries subject to the necessary health protocols and the presentation of a negative Covid-19 certificate,” he added.

No more travel ‘red list’

The easing of pandemic-related international travel rules to South Africa effectively means that government is abolishing its so-called “red list” of Covid-19 hotspot countries. Under that rule, leisure travel from countries on the list was still not allowed.

Ramaphosa said South Africa would limit the spread of Covid-19 infection through importation using rapid tests and strict monitoring.

“We expect that these measures will greatly assist businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors,” he added.

“We are focusing relentlessly on the implementation of our [economic recovery] plan, pursuing a few priorities with the highest impact and ensuring that we deliver on these.”

The danger isn’t over

While the relaxation of Covid-19 trade and travel restrictions under Level 1 will be welcomed by organised business and tourism bodies, the move is also likely to face some opposition from South Africans and civil organisations that believe it may lead to a spike in Covid-19 infections.

During his address, Ramaphosa warned about citizens not obeying Covid-19 health protocols, such as wearing masks and social distancing, saying that he has seen posts on social media of huge parties and other events being held which could serve as “super spreaders” of the virus.

“We must remember that every additional person we come into contact with increases the chances of transmission. We should avoid large gatherings. We should rather meet in small groups. If we must go out, we should limit contact with others,” he said

“I have been increasingly getting concerned and alarmed by what I have been seeing on social media and even on television where people are holding big parties, gatherings and social events as though the virus does not exist,” he added.

“I have been seeing images of indoor venues crowded with people who are not wearing masks and with no evidence of social distancing. These are super-spreader events that must be avoided because this is dangerous behaviour.”

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Enjoy your “liberties” while they last.

While I sincerely don’t beleive that Covid is this doom and gloom situation that the WHO and the supporting governments have made it out to be I am not going to stick my head in the ground and pretend the economic risks of lockdown activity are not real. Our own government allowed Covid Lockdowns to further destroy the economy in South Africa and therefore I believe that any dramatic increases in covid numbers will open the door for government to bring back further lockdown activities. Europe, parts of the Middle East and the Americas are seeing rampant numbers and now our government decides to remove the red list. Choosing to determine our points of entry are going to man and manage the covid spread. These entry points cannot even manage illegal entry, drug smuggling and other crime related issues let alone the old baggage theft and tampering problems which are all visible problems. Can somebody tell me how this is going to work. I am not as concerned about the medical spread of covid as I am about the economic effect of further lockdowns. Once again a decision by government that does not make any sense.

@JUMP123 you are preaching to the choir here.

Give our President credit. That was one of his best announcements yet! Whilst the rest of the world is in doom and gloom with worsening restrictions, we are getting better with less restrictions.

Yes indeed, but my wife made a good point this morning. Christmas is just around the corner which is going to see a lot of festive gatherings, large crowds, etc with people throwing caution to the wind. This is a recipe for disaster. Government needs to step in and ban large gatherings to prevent a resurgence of infections.

Yes, we need to get restaurants and others in the hospitality sector the best chance possible to have a good festive season but we can’t allow a free-for-all. We are not special and we could experience a second wave in this country just as easily as Europe, etc if we let our guard down too soon.

The initial hard lockdown is paying off.

Job well done Mr. President.

You got the job done with far less dollars and euros!

How do you figure that? All that was needed was: wear masks, wash your hands and stay away from crowded places. Needed no ridiculous lockdown laws and destruction of the economy. History will most probably show no statistically significant difference in outcomes between the hard lockdown countries and those who did not as far as coronavirus deaths go. Economic outcomes will be significant, though.

End of comments.

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